A Blank Page

For writers, a blank page can be terrifying, even debilitating. Signalling a potential waiting to be realised, it is likewise unlimited potential, potential without direction; any decision taken cancels out others which could have been made in its stead. To the extent that a blank page signals absolute freedom, it likewise signals absolute uncertainty. Will this be the right way to start? Now that I have come 68 words in, is it too late to go back, to start anew, to return to the ungerminated seed which inspired this piece?

A blank page on a computer is a vast tundra of meta-visual space, glaring, naked, brutal white. Nothing here, nothing yet…

Transcribing another text onto a blank page is no difficult task; I know where to begin and where to end. But, what it makes up for in certainty, it loses in originality, creativity, and authenticity; so too with living. Mimicking will ease the pangs of uncertainty, but it likewise empties life of meaning; because we aren’t writing our story, we are writing someone else’s.

The blank page confronts us with a deeply existential problem. For every decision we make, there are decisions we do not; and each decision narrows the range of future possibilities. What’s frightening is not making a decision, but the quiet whisper at the back of our minds: could another decision have been better? Within this question is captured the most difficult task of writing indeed, but also of living itself.

Android Jones, Forward Escape, 2015

When discussing his creative process, Android Jones remarked on an internal movement relevant to all art, including the art of living. He observed that when confronted with a blank canvas, he didn’t think too much about where or how to begin; he simply began. Anywhere was as good a starting point as any other, he observed; with other aspects, dimensions, and forms following from this starting point. While a canvas physically has a central point, for him, the philosophical centre could be anywhere.

For life, what is of paramount importance is not whether you decide to become an electrician or a fountain pen salesman, it is the very act of deciding, of acting, and from this, seeing new directions, colours and forms for your life to take. To endlessly ponder how to begin an essay is to wait until the computer battery runs out, only to find you haven’t written a word. The poorly written essay can be improved, but there is nothing to change on an empty page.

It can be debilitating to be faced with a blank page, empty canvas or unlived life. How to know what to do, where to start, what direction to take? Essentially, any point is as good as any other. In a way, choosing the ‘right’ beginning matters less than the very decision to ‘choose’; that is, begin writing, drawing, acting and from this, all else follows. I did not know how this essay would unfold until I got to the end, and so it is with life; once I began, it became clearer what I needed to do. Did I start in the right place with the right words? Once you get to the end, you see such a question begins to matter less and less.

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